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Thread: Early 1922 F4 tuner slips

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    Registered User tim noble's Avatar
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    Default Early 1922 F4 tuner slips

    I've had a Cremona Brown F4 for 35 or more years and finally put on Mangan monels. The instrument is very original and clean and I've never had a problem tuning it. Unfortunately the top A string slips after some tension is applied. I've studied the gears while tuning up and can't see any imperfections but it gets to a point where it slips to a lower pitch. Is there a simple fix such as bending the tabs or is it likely a worn worm or main gear? Thanks for any assistance.
    Tim Noble

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early 1922 F4 tuner slips

    Take a look at the late Paul Hostetter's tuner page. He has tips for reviving and servicing these old tuners.

    http://www.lutherie.net/tuner.maintenance.html

    Also, check the nut slots. If the strings are binding in the slots that will happen as well.
    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
    --M. Stillion

    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them"
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  4. #3
    Registered User tim noble's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early 1922 F4 tuner slips

    Thanks Mike
    I already tried that but Paul's website is no longer available or says NOT FOUND. I remember this problem was discussed before but my searches haven't found anything helpful.

  5. #4

    Default Re: Early 1922 F4 tuner slips

    Are you sure it's the tuner and not the string? Checked the winding on the loop?
    2010 Heiden A5, 2020 Pomeroy oval A, 2012 Girouard A Mandola w ff holes, 2001 Old Wave A oval octave
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    Default Re: Early 1922 F4 tuner slips

    Quote Originally Posted by tim noble View Post
    Thanks Mike
    I already tried that but Paul's website is no longer available or says NOT FOUND. I remember this problem was discussed before but my searches haven't found anything helpful.
    Clear your cache, that website comes up immediately from that link. His family made the decision to keep it running. before you do anything else check the nut slots for those strings, maybe add some graphite from a pencil lead. It may not be the tuners.
    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
    --M. Stillion

    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them"
    --J. Garber

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    Default Re: Early 1922 F4 tuner slips

    confirming, luthiery.net points to a blank web site, dns updated October 8th 2023. no idea if they plan to populate the new site with content from old site. no idea if old site is still accessible if you know the IP address. https://www.whois.com/whois/lutherie.net

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    Default Re: Early 1922 F4 tuner slips

    @OP, slipping A strings is the bane of mandolins. three places where it can slip - at the tail piece, the loop is not right or bad routing and string is shifting, - at the tuning machine post, there is no knot or there is too few windings around the post, - at the tuning machine cog, the cog screw is loose or there is too much oil. that's if it only ever goes flat. if it sometimes goes sharp, you also have too much friction in the nut, as others already wrote. it can also be a defective string, it could be stretching, in which case it will break soon enough and the problem will resolve itself. more advice possible if you post photos the 3 trouble spots i described.

  9. #8

    Default Re: Early 1922 F4 tuner slips

    You've never had tuning problems in 35 years -- so I'm thinking it's not the tuners. I would try another A string and see if that fixes it.

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    Registered User tim noble's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early 1922 F4 tuner slips

    Thanks for the help. It is not the loop, nut (it is smooth and the string slides well and I had applied graphite years ago) or as far as I can tell the winding on the post. When it drops tension while tightening, the post actually turns a few degrees so it is not likely the winding but in the gears. For the first time in many years I applied a micro amount of tri flow as I had seen on Paul' website. Tomorrow I will remove the cog, clean everything up and try again. If it slips, I'll try a new string and report back.
    edit - It's actually the D string

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    Default Re: Early 1922 F4 tuner slips

    Re Paul's site availability: I typed in lutherie.net a couple times this am, and Paul's site comes right up. You do have to click on the violin, to get to a site map.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early 1922 F4 tuner slips

    Quote Originally Posted by mandocello8 View Post
    confirming, luthiery.net points to a blank web site, dns updated October 8th 2023. no idea if they plan to populate the new site with content from old site. no idea if old site is still accessible if you know the IP address. https://www.whois.com/whois/lutherie.net
    That's not what that whois record shows, the page is active. Here's a screen shot I just took. Somebody has a bad DNS record.
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    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
    --M. Stillion

    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them"
    --J. Garber

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    Default Re: Early 1922 F4 tuner slips

    Quote Originally Posted by bennyb View Post
    Re Paul's site availability: I typed in lutherie.net a couple times this am, and Paul's site comes right up. You do have to click on the violin, to get to a site map.
    I suspect some bad DNS information has replicated across a few ISP's.
    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
    --M. Stillion

    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them"
    --J. Garber

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    Default Re: Early 1922 F4 tuner slips

    Quote Originally Posted by tim noble View Post
    Thanks for the help. It is not the loop, nut (it is smooth and the string slides well and I had applied graphite years ago) or as far as I can tell the winding on the post. When it drops tension while tightening, the post actually turns a few degrees so it is not likely the winding but in the gears. For the first time in many years I applied a micro amount of tri flow as I had seen on Paul' website. Tomorrow I will remove the cog, clean everything up and try again. If it slips, I'll try a new string and report back.
    edit - It's actually the D string
    Make sure the screw on the cog is tight enough. If this is something that just started happening there should be a fix short of replacing the tuners.
    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
    --M. Stillion

    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them"
    --J. Garber

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    Default Re: Early 1922 F4 tuner slips

    "It's actually the D string". oops, my mistake. wound D string will not slip on the post. and loop ends always look pretty sturdy. so it must be the worm gear. maybe too much oil. ideally, the bearings should be oiled, but the cog-worm contact area should be dry for maximum friction. 35 year old tuning machines? could be wear on the cogs (soft brass, no wear on steel worms). you can try to swap the cogs between the two Ds or between Ds and Gs. (I would not touch the As and Es, they may start slipping, too). beyound that, I would say it's all alligator dentistry, looking closely at worn out cogs, cleaning/recutting the teeth using hand tools, trying to mix and match cogs to posts. in $$$/hour and likelyhood of success, getting new high-quality tuning machines could be simpler/faster. (that said, I just reworked 100 year old solid-brass tuning machines from an old bowlback, they used to bind severely on badly cut cog teeth, now they turn as sooth as any new machines from japan or germany).

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    Default Re: Early 1922 F4 tuner slips

    If the slipping is new, change the string first, and make sure you get at least 3 winds around the tuner post.
    If it still slips, check that the bearings that hold the worm gear [I think that's what you mean by "tabs"] have not loosened up where they are peened into the tuner's base plate.
    If one has loosened up, it can sometimes be re-peened, or if necessary, someone who knows what they are doing can fix it by brazing it.

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    Default Re: Early 1922 F4 tuner slips

    By the way, Paul's website address is misspelled in at least one message above. The correct spelling is lutherie.net
    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
    --M. Stillion

    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them"
    --J. Garber

  20. #17

    Default Re: Early 1922 F4 tuner slips

    One more possibility. The cog has a shaped bore, usually square, and the post, a mating end. Enough looseness, from (unlikely) wear, or a crack (likely) will let one slip with enough torque, but it would be more than a few degrees. Cracks are nearly invisible. If available, a replacement similar cog and post from the same vintage and brand would be easy. If not, the whole tuner plate. Brazing old, tiny, crumbling brass is not highly successful, but possible. A slightly deformed steel post end can be peened and shaped, etc.
    Take the cog off and using a 10x loupe look carefully at both parts and the worm as well. The worm should show no wear or scratches on the diameter.

  21. #18
    Registered User tim noble's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early 1922 F4 tuner slips

    This is a bit frustrating as I am not very familiar on the intricacies of these original tuners from 1922. I removed the screw but cannot remove the gear. I assume it is press fitted to the post but do not want to apply much leverage. I cleaned off the tri flow with a qtip and alcohol and note that the tuner has more play than the others. Holding the button, there seems to be an unusual amount slop and the worm seems not tightly engaged with bearing plate. I restrung it and now it gets to a point where there is significant resistance as it approaches the D note then it slips with the post turning what could be the amount of a cog slipping on the worm. I observed the gears under 10X magnification and they look fine as far as I can tell. If the outer bearing (tab holding the worm) is distorted or worn I assume that the fix is very difficult if not Impossible. I bought the mandolin from the original owner, a music professor in Hagerstown MD and It's been a keeper for many years. Help!!

  22. #19

    Default Re: Early 1922 F4 tuner slips

    Problem defined: the cog is jumping on the mating worm. Several different approaches that are not too difficult. First, the tuners are likely ‘worm under’ that is, the post is above (north) of the worm, which means that string tension pulls the cog away from the worm if there’s any wear in the headstock wood. This is the simplest fix since someone if not you, could shim the post back to vertical and better engagement. If the other arrangement, ‘worm over’ the same wear pushes the parts closer, so less likely to skip, but also unwanted high friction. Barring that, the job of substituting a new worm, cog and post isn’t that bad either, but a jeweler or hobby machinist is needed, and the parts would be scavenged from a luthier’s junk box. The little bearing posts (pillow blocks if they were big things) can be teased out of their mountings and new ones inserted, brazed or just peened as original, and this takes skill.
    Personally, something first needing repair after 101 years should be respected, and not thrown away.

  23. #20

    Default Re: Early 1922 F4 tuner slips

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard500 View Post
    Personally, something first needing repair after 101 years should be respected, and not thrown away.
    Agreed. Whatever you do, don't replace the original tuners. I would try swapping a gear from another string and see if that solves the problem. Or, change string brand? Change string brand first. Probably just a bad string. Keep it simple. Don't overthink.

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    Default Re: Early 1922 F4 tuner slips

    "original tuners from 1922", malfunction, ouch! "should be respected, and not thrown away", absolutely. and if the tuning machine post spacing is pre-standard, modern tuning machines will not fit without reworking the holes. I think at this point photos will be very helpful. If there is screws, the cog should be removable, if it is not, it might be part of the problem, post and cog are not mated right and separating them would be the next logical step. I suggest that you are at the point of "if you break it, you get to keep both pieces" and you should line up/find replacement tuning machines just so you know how much $$$ you are in for, in the worst case (cracked cog breaks in half, cog-post mating area is boogered up, brass cog is too worn out). golden age restoration tuning machines? standard tuning machines? which ones fit your axe?

  25. #22
    Registered User tim noble's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early 1922 F4 tuner slips

    Thanks for all the help and suggestions. I'll do whatever I can to retain and repair the tuners. I removed them and cleaned them up. The long D wobbles much more than the others and interestingly I can see more of the brass alloy on the worm and and much more on the cog suggesting long term wear. I may have the opportunity to get a cog gear and see if that helps. Is there an acceptable way to remove the post from the gear? I could use a wood dowel and tap it out but will rely on others experience, The string post stability in the headstock is identical to the others and it could be possible to shim the headstock hole to apply more pressure on the post which pushes the gears together but when I do that with my hands, I reach a point where it begins to bind up when turning the button. Clearly the problem is with the bracket and gears. The biggest issue may be the wear to the bracket. Removing it by grinding off the peans is possible and then I could also replace the worm but finding the proper parts could be nearly impossible and having them made would be as expensive as finding an old set. Even though I am primarily a guitar player, this mandolin has great sentimental value and I enjoy it in jams and just playing around. I'm trying to not overthink the repair but dang I'd like to get playable. Is there anyone out there that does these types of repairs?

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Early 1922 F4 tuner slips

    To be honest I would replace the original tuners with a pair of Stewmac Golden Age replacement tuners. Just keep the originals for if and when you sell it. These should drop in. Keeping the original tuners and making the instrument unplayable seems a little silly.

    https://www.stewmac.com/parts-and-ha...tyle-mandolins

    I'd probably go with the relic finish.
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    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
    --M. Stillion

    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them"
    --J. Garber

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    Default Re: Early 1922 F4 tuner slips

    Originality is great. I'm all for it -- when maintaining originality does not render the instrument useless.

    You've got a blown tuner. Your rare and beloved Cremona brown F-4 is currently useless.
    Do yourself a favor and install a good set of tuners, and you'll get your mandolin back.

    Perhaps at some point, you can find an expert jewelry maker or antique watch repair person who will be able to restore the originals to functional condition. Or the tuners may be done for good. Until you can find out whether the tuners can be repaired, stick them in the case pocket. In the mean time, put in some working tuners and get your old friend back.

    And I'll bet a dollar that the instrument will sound just as good with new tuners as it did with the originals. Perhaps better, because the new ones will probably be easier to dial in, and hold their pitch longer.

    Important: Sometime around the time your mandoin was made, the industry began to make a transition from the tuner post spacing used in the 1910's [15/16" or .931"] to a slightly narrower spacing [29/32" or .906"] that is still in use today. Tuners with the modern spacing will not work right on an instrument that was drilled for the older spacing. Thankfully, Stew-mac makes a tuner that Mike linked to above that will fit the old spacing. If you'll attach a picture of your originals, we might be able to tell whether you'll need tuners with the earlier post spacing or tuners with the modern post spacing.
    Last edited by rcc56; Nov-06-2023 at 4:28pm.

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    Default Re: Early 1922 F4 tuner slips

    I had the problem of binding tuners in my '22 Gibson. After trying to clean and adjust them I finally gave up and put new tuners on. I still have the old ones, but the new ones make the mandolin playable. This was decades ago and I don't think about it at all, it's just nice to be able to tune the mandolin.
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